New research by Milena Buchs of Leeds University and author of previous research on Carbon Conversations has been exploring the effectiveness of our carbon calculator.
You may know that Carbon Conversations grew out of a
project that conducted interviews with the public using the Centre for Alternative Technology's carbon calculator as a way of raising
people's awareness of climate change. Back in 2005 the information
this gave was a revelation to many people and about 10% of those
interviewed joined Carbon Conversations groups in order to explore
how to reduce the emissions they were in control of.
Recently Milena conducted a longtitudinal study, using the current Carbon
Conversations calculator, to see if such interviews and the
personalised information they provided could by themselves lead to
reductions in people's footprints. The disappointing (but perhaps
not surprising) news is that they don't by themselves produce reductions. The research identifies
significant barriers to personal action including the lack of appropriate infrastructure but also
important socio-cultural factors and many of the psychological
issues that Carbon Conversations groups try to work with such as
the helplessness people feel in the face of climate change.
It would be interesting to repeat this experiment in a country
where there are fewer infrastructural barriers and where
government policy is actively encouraging the necessary
socio-cultural shifts. The full article Promoting Low Carbon Behaviours through Personalised Information? Long-Term Evaluation of a Carbon Calculator Interview is available here. We would encourage you to read it.
We think that the carbon calculator remains a useful tool for
introducing people to the effect of everyday life on carbon
emissions but it's clear that there is much more to reducing
carbon emissions than easy voluntary change.